Just over 1 in 10 Americans packed up and changed homes last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While the number might seem high, Americans are actually moving far less often than they were just 40 years earlier, when almost 20 percent of Americans changed residences annually.
To understand this decline, it may be helpful to first look at why Americans are moving, and to where. HireAHelper, a website and app that aggregates moving services, analyzed more than 31,000 moves in the U.S. last year. The data represents hybrid movers, those who combined DIY-approaches with professional services and, therefore, represent Americans of average income.
So where is the average, min-van-driving American moving? Though populous states like New York and California tend to see the highest raw numbers of both incoming and outgoing movers, the trend has been tipping more towards outgoing, notes Elyssa Kirkham, a data journalist and lead reporter on the study. California’s net loss of movers is actually around 13 percent, compared to states like Idaho and Montana, which gained more than 80 percent of movers.
Why the heck is everyone moving to Idaho? Kirkham notes that, in general, movers are seeking greater affordability. “Where we saw a lot of net moves tended to be in states that were more affordable and right next to states that were more expensive,” Kirkham says. This might help explain why the average moving distance was only 373 miles and why a state like Idaho, which borders Oregon and Washington, regions with growing housing prices, has become increasingly attractive.
Another state with rising housing rates is California, and according to U.S. census data, Nevada is also becoming an increasingly attractive moving destination. (Geography check: Nevada boarders California). In fact, three of the top 10 U.S. cities with highest net mover losses, according to HireAHelper, were cities in California.
Why People Aren't Moving
Still, 1 in 10 Americans isn’t super high. So why are we no longer a nation of movers?
According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University, moving rates have declined over the last several decades among all age groups, particularly among those that have historically high moving rates - Americans in their 20s.
Those Americans are seeing a slower wage growth, explains Kirkham. That means when housing rates go up, so too does the divide between rent costs and renter income. It means a falling home ownership rate among young professionals and, therefore, a demographic far less likely to buy or change homes. “When people have less money available to them and they have few financial resources, their risk tolerance is low,” says Kirkham. So they stay put.
Those staying put at even higher rates are older Americans who make up the majority of homeowners and who statistically move less. And so as the U.S. population ages alongside the Boomers, we may become a nation of even fewer movers (or one with more movers heading south to Florida; over 9 percent of movers flocked to the sunshine state last year, according to HireAHelper’s data).
“An older population that has been working longer also has greater job security,” notes Kirkham. “They’re more qualified applicants and so if they’re looking for a job, they can look locally.” Local recruitment has also grown to match this middle-aged market, meaning new jobs don’t force Americans to move around that much anymore. (According to HireAHelper only 10 percent of movers moved because of a new job or job transfer).
Still, this all makes it harder for younger applicants to be competitive and find jobs locally. And the homes that are being sold tend to be unaffordable for median-income families. Hence the move to places that have more opportunities, more growth, and lower prices- and aren’t too too far away.
Bummed that it's time to say goodbye to sunny California? Sure, while coastal states might be getting less affordable, who knows: Maybe Idaho will soon be the hippest place to live. Its capital is already the fastest growing city in the U.S.
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